Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 17:07 UK

Peter Robinson to remain NI first minister

Peter Robinson
The DUP leader was given unanimous support by assembly team

Peter Robinson is to stay on as NI first minister, despite losing his East Belfast seat in the general election.

At a meeting of the DUP assembly team on Monday, the DUP leader was given unanimous support.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey met his MLAs on Monday to discuss the consequences of his party's poor performance at the general election.

There was speculation he would step down as leader, but a decision on that move is not expected on Monday.

Mr Robinson lost the Westminster seat he held for 31 years.

Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long was elected as the new MP for East Belfast.

The Northern Ireland first minister was given a round of applause at Monday's meeting of his MLAs.

It was the first opportunity for the party group to reflect on the election. Mr Robinson's defeat was described as "a body blow" by the party's Ian Paisley Jnr.

But, according to BBC NI political correspondent Martina Purdy, it seems not to have damaged Mr Robinson's standing within the party.

Seats

No one spoke against him at the meeting on Monday, according to several DUP sources.

Mr Robinson reflected on the vote, not only in East Belfast but across Northern Ireland.

The party is satisfied that it won eight seats, and that this was an endorsement of Mr Robinson strategy and policies.

One MLA said of Mr Robinson, "the best is yet to come".

Sir Reg's position is under greater threat. On election night, senior UUP member David McNarry said Sir Reg was "finished" as party leader.

His comments came as Sir Reg failed to win the South Antrim from the DUP's William McCrea.

On Monday, a UUP spokesperson said that "following the Westminster election, the Ulster Unionist Party will this week be reflecting on a number of issues".

"A special Executive meeting is due to be held on Saturday where the party will look at the way ahead."

'Mistakes'

The UUP now have no Westminster seats after their pact with the Conservatives - known as UCUNF - failed to halt the party's decline.

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said the pact had made mistakes during the election campaign.

"The experiment with the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists was a big gamble which didn't pay off," he said.

"UCUNF should have concentrated their forces on potential targets rather than getting distracted by the volcano-disrupted Tory VIP visits."

With negotiations continuing in London over the formation of a government, two new MPs - the DUP's Ian Paisley Junior and Alliance's Naomi Long - have called on the 13 NI politicians who will take their seats to seek common ground on defending the local economy.



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